Photoshop: Masking a Photo with a Path
GOAL: This tutorial demonstrates how to mask an object from a photograph using Photoshop. This can also be called deleting a background from a photo.
Many product photos are done using a product light booth that leaves a gray shadowy area behind the subject. I've read about, and seen many, many ways to get rid of a background, but in my 25 years of trial and error, I stick with one tried and true method. Here it is…
Let's begin by opening a COPY of your raw photo in Photoshop. Always work on a copy in case something goes wrong.
I've kept this subject matter fairly simple, but the process works on any subject, no matter how complex its shape or background.
- Using the Pen Tool (P) in Photoshop, draw a path around the subject matter or object you want to separate from the background.
Hint: a WACOM tablet and pen work really well here.
I try to split the edge pixels in half. This creates a cleaner edge. My path looks like this:
- Next, I hold down the Command key and press return. This turns the path into a selection (marching ants).
- Now let's feather the edge 1 pixel. This helps the image blend into the new background.
Choose Select > Modify > Feather
- Feather Radius: 1 pixel
- Inverse your selection
Select > Inverse
- If your layer is the initial Background layer, you'll have to convert it to an editable layer. To do this, simply double-click the layer, name it, and click okay.
- To delete the image's background do one of the following:
- Press Delete two times (destructive)
- Create a layer mask (non-destructive)
Zoom in so you can see it working on the feathered edge. Like this:
- Now your image has a nicely feathered, precise edge that will look good against most any background.
- If you see problem areas, you can always go back in the History pallet, edit your path, and try again.
- Before you save and close your file--remember to save your path.
Click the Path tab, by the Layers and Channels tabs, double-click your Work Path, name it, and click Okay.
As I mentioned before, I've tried many, many different ways to mask an object, and I keep coming back to this method. It allows me total control, is editable, and once you hone your drawing skills, it's really quite speedy.
Here's a video of the same tutorial on my YouTube channel